The Newlywed Game: 12 Ways to Make It through the First Year ...

Having been married since October, I've been thinking about all the things you hear about the first year of marriage – and mind you, I did not really think of these things before. My wife and I have been together for almost nine years and we've lived together for seven, so I didn't anticipate any changes. I thought all those horror stories and cliches you hear were reserved for newer couples who hadn't lived together as long, or at all. Yeah, no. Whether you could be a contender for “Marriage at First Sight” or if you're just getting married after a long partnership, the newlywed year is a clustermug. If you use your first year together to adjust and reacquaint yourselves, however, it's also pretty amazing.

1. Keep Your Expectations Realistic

Even if you were perfectly in sync before tying the knot, things change afterward. Your struggles are unique to your marriage, but having them is universal. Existing issues don't automatically fix themselves just because you're married and new ones sometimes pop up, even between seemingly perfect couples. Don't expect marriage to be an easy fix and don't think every disagreement or argument means you made a mistake.

2. Be Boring

What I mean is, it pays to talk about even the most mundane topics. Being a newlywed isn't all about the honeymoon stage. You need to talk about your bills, your finances, your responsibilities, and yes, all of those realistic expectations as well. Nothing is too minor – seriously. Put together chore charts, decide what to do with your funds, create savings goals. These aren't the most exciting or glamorous parts of marriage, but they'll make things so much smoother.

3. Hold Your Tongue

There may be times when your spouse just gets on your nerves. Perhaps this happened before you got married. Maybe it's a new annoyance. It might just be a passing snit or a product of your own bad mood. Whatever the case, you'll probably be tempted to snipe. Don't do it. It creates unnecessary drama. If the feeling persists, think about how you'd feel if your partner said whatever you're about to let loose.

4. Fight It out

I won't say every couple fights, but I'll venture that most do, and that's okay. No, knock-down, drag-out fights are not cool – you should never get physical with each other, and mental or emotional warfare is likewise off-limits. However, sometimes those snipes sneak out, or you argue about purchases made with the joint account, or you get snarky because you're both in horrible moods. It happens. Let it out. You have to relieve the pressure somehow. Just remember …

5. Fight Fair

You have to fight fair. Don't throw any low blows, don't make things personal, and don't be spiteful. You can't just try to hurt your partner. If you need time to cool off, take it – and give it, too. Remember that some things are off-limits, making it equally important to know your spouse's boundaries.

6. Say You're Sorry

Often “I'm sorry” is an even more meaningful phrase than “I love you.” Never let pride stand in the way of mending fences. For that matter, sometimes you have to swallow your pride and apologize even when you don't necessarily feel like you're wrong. Apologies should never be one-sided.

7. Celebrate Whatever You Want

Sometimes you just need to look forward to something. It's especially essential during your first year of marriage, because as you become accustomed to this new chapter, it can seem like there are more bad times than good times. Your milestones help you break through and remember why you're together. Whether it's your first Christmas, Valentine's Day, or big purchase, celebrate it – you're doing it together! I'm still celebrating monthly anniversaries, because every month is another step in this wild new journey.

8. Have Sex

Is this absolutely the most important part of marriage? Actually, that depends – every marriage is unique in its quirks and secrets and inner workings, remember. Some partners or couples like to have a lot of sex, others don't, still others fall somewhere in between. Whatever the case, you can't lose that spark. Life is going to get in the way pretty quickly and it will be harder to connect like that.

9. Be Intimate

It's even harder to find time to be intimate. Intimacy is entirely different than sex, and for some individuals and couples, it's more important. Wherever you and your partner fall, make time for the intimacy that's important to you. It might involve having long conversations about everything, reading books together, or snuggling in bed on Sunday mornings. Open up some space for it.

10. Stay Friends

Your partner doesn't necessarily have to be your best friend, but hopefully you are friends. Working on that friendship is crucial. You need to go on dates and romantic getaways as a married couple, absolutely, but sometimes dates just don't happen. Everything in the world intervenes and disrupts your best intentions. You may have to make time to simply hang out, even if that means going to lunch after you do the shopping or seeing a movie with your other buddies. As long as you still like spending casual but quality time together, things are going to be golden.

11. Keep Compromising

Compromise really is the cornerstone of a happy relationship. You have to reinforce it during the first year you're married and you may have to compromise about new things. It helps if you're used to it but it can still be rough. Practice makes perfect – and again, remember not to let your pride stand in the way. You have to give as much as you take.

12. Laugh

Your first year together is an adjustment, even if you've been in a long term relationship. As long as you can still laugh together – through arguments, emergencies, rough patches, and more serious issues – you'll get through this. It's a beautiful, crazy, eye-opening, whirlwind year and laughing together will help you remember the lessons.

No one ever said the first year had to be the best year. Hopefully you never have a best year, because the next will be better than the last. The newlywed year is frustrating, exhilarating, exciting, and irritating, but it's wonderful too. You're working together to create a marriage that reflects the two of you. Perfect first years are for fairy tales. The real thing makes for better stories anyway. Do you have any Year One horror stories?